Pablo Picasso, Rembrandt van Rijn, Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonorroti Simoni: all the bigwigs in the art world, well-known to artists and laymen alike. But what about Gustav Klimt, Robert Rauschenberg, or Hieronymus Bosch? Or what about Marcel Duchamp, Jean Ingres, or Jean Corvous? The truth is, when it comes to art, the artists that bob about in the everyday conversation are only droplets in the sea of artwork that has been created over the years – a fact that is mind boggling and discouraging to any normal citizen just searching for a little culture for Pete's sake. If all the artwork ever created were thrown at you (including Bosch's "painting" of a blank canvas) you'd probably hate art forever.
This is where the art museum steps in. This benevolent institution carefully arranges a select few pieces of artwork in a pleasing way, creating an experience that interests the average visitor, and leaves them feeling mildly smarter. The art curator has done his job well.
Since the last couple of years has made self-publishing as easy as zapping Bagel Bites in the microwave, the amount of user generated content has exploded across the internet and grown exponentially. Pretty soon, the iconic placid father calmly sipping coffee over the morning newspaper has been replaced by the harried businessman sitting at his computer with a million windows open and a cell phone that Dings! every time a new post is up.
Is it any surprise that once people were tired of generating content, the content curators stepped in? Perhaps the first of the species was Huffington Post, but many sites including Reader's Digest, Treehugger, and GOOD Magazine have joined in – culling through the vast sea of information and picking out the choicest morsels for a more manageable meal. Even blogs have shifted from creating content to reposting others' posts. To take the analogy a step further, retweeters on Twitter are essentially collecting pieces of information just as a curator would collect pieces of artwork.
This means that sightings of bikini clad Demi Moore eclipsed the Guardian's report on Tibetan nomads who are struggling as grasslands disappear as a result of climate change.
What lives on in public memory then depends on what has been retweeted, commented, and re-posted the most – the Picassos, the Rembrandts, and the Michelangelos of the information world.
Jenny Chen '12 is an English and international studies double major; she first got her taste of journalism when she pitched a youth column for a local newspaper in 2008 and was paid to write about her opinion on the news. Since then, she's enjoyed the excuse for snooping and trying the new things that a career in journalism offers.